If you’ve read our VICE Guide to Vienna, you already know that the squatting scene in Austria’s capital basically consists of a few fucked-up punk houses and most of them are either government funded, or at least tolerated by the government.
That is until yesterday, when the only actual squat in Vienna, the notorious Pizzeria Anarchia was evicted. It took 1,700 policemen, 12 hours, one tank and a water cannon to get 31 squatters to move their shit. Pizzeria Anarchia might be no more, but the story of its downfall is an embarrassment to local police and an example of shameless realtors' tactics winning over the little man.
The squat came about sometime in 2012, after a group of anarchists were invited to live in a former pizzeria by none other than its owner. Yet, a couple of weeks ago the squatters received an eviction note. According to the squatters, the operation was part of a shady plan conceived by the holding company to get the other tenants to move out of the place, and raise in this way the monthly rents.
“We were invited here by the owners,” one of the anonymous squatters told us. “They said they felt sorry for us and wanted to do some sort of social project. They told us the place was totally abandoned and that we could stay for half a year. But then we found out that there were a couple of tenants still living here – and the plan was to get them moving out because we’d allegedly be too loud and too much trouble for them. Once we saw through this scam, we joined forces with the tenants and took over the whole building. The idea was to show that simple people could actually hold their own against ruthless ventures and realty speculators.”
Another one added: “We’re not the ones that the violence comes from.”
Once we explained our goals, we were allowed to spent the night with squatters and sympathisers at Pizzeria Anarchia. The atmosphere was relaxed, even cheerful – besides booze and weed, there was even some making out, while others had already started to plan the building of barricades to hold back the oncoming police forces.
“Find a place to stay is pretty tough,” explained one of the visiting punks. “These guys lived here with the owner's permission, which at first seemed ideal. But now they’re being kicked out once again.”
Around 5AM, work on the barricades intensified and was carried out without much talking. The police arrived shortly after, but to our surprise they kept their distance. It was a little before 10AM that they got closer, only to be greeted with passive and peaceful resistance – plus a couple of dye and feather bombs. Thanks to the squatters' rigorous preparations and the massive barricades at both doors, it took the police a whole day to finally get into the building and remove all 31 squatters from the scene.
During the operation, the police had banned all press from the site (a debatable violation of ruling press law, since there weren't any war crimes or heavy fights going on) but we managed to get onto a friend’s roof terrace nearby, until the tank came to smash in the gates. It was probably around this point that people started wondering how a bunch of misfits managed to keep police at bay by nothing other than stacking furniture behind a door.
Around dusk, police finally made it into the building and on to the third floor, where they arrested the last resisting protesters. It was one of the biggest police operations of the last couple of years. The costs have yet to be determined.
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